Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.
- Wendell Berry, "The Vacation"
We just finished our spring school holidays here. As an early birthday present, Maddy accompanied G on a business trip to the states so she could (a) tour some universities she's in love with/dreaming of attending and (b) also visit her friends at her old school. Sam and I were on our own here so I gave him free reign (rein?) to choose something as a consolation prize (if you can call it a prize, going somewhere with your mom when you're a 15-year-old boy) and he opted to head to the Blue Mountains for a few days of hiking and adventuring.
Hiking, yes, and instagramming/recording our way through the scenery. If a hike happens in a forest and no one instagrams it, does it really happen? As Wendell Berry asks, can you really be in a vacation if you are constantly recording it? It's a balance, the making of memories and the recording them.
I'm usually the one behind the camera (and prefer it that way, really!) but every once in a while I try to make sure to document my presence. Otherwise my kids will grow up and say, "Man, isn't it great my dad took us so many places. I mean, where's my mom? Did she ever even come on one of these things? I guess she just couldn't be bothered, huh?" Turning over the camera to someone else is an option, sure, but it's still tricky to get a shot you like and it's uncomfortable to ask for do-overs and adjustments (why yes, I do have some control issues, why do you ask?).
Enter the selfie.
I'm a reluctant selfie-er, really. It's a rare moment that I flip that camera around. As my friend Trina said, "Selfies...either a self esteem killer or boost." Mine are usually the killer variety, truth be told. And I feel vulnerable and silly even before I look at the shot.
Look, kids. I was here. I was in it. Now, here, let me take a picture of you.
Do you have a selfie opinion? How often are you in the picture? Do you ever feel conflicted over the balance of living life and recording of life?
Some great reads on selfies (via Longreads):
- Sarah Hepola, a selfie enthusiast, examines and defends the culture of selfies
- The Young-Girl and the Selfie
- Snaps of America (where I was reminded of the Wendell Berry poem, by the way)
- In Praise of Selfies: no longer self-conscious but self-constructive
- Why do we take selfies? New York Times blog
p.s. If you are in the Blue Mountains of Australia, don't miss the National Pass trail. Spectacular. Selfies optional.